Accountability, collaboration and listening to the next generation. How the responsible business network intends to stay fit for the future.  

By Dr Lisa McIlvenna, Deputy Chief Executive, Business in the Community

This is a unique time for those of us in the world of ‘responsible business’. Things have changed.

Business in the Community (BITC) has spent the last 40 years working hard to engage and persuade business that ‘responsible business is good business’, but where once we had to work hard to get ‘in the door’ of some businesses, we’re now regularly welcomed with open arms. The landscape of responsible business, ESG, Corporate Social Responsibility – whatever you call it – has changed.

Responsible business action has shifted from a ‘nice-to-do’ to a ‘need-to-do’, and the imperative for sustainability is more pronounced and better understood than ever before amongst businesses and communities. With that comes new challenges and opportunities for Business in the Community as the responsible business network. As respected voice on business, sustainability and innovation Joel Makower recently commented: “Finally, people understand what you do and why you do it. Be careful what you wish for”.

The challenge for BITC? Individuals and businesses are better versed in responsible business, now more than ever. They’re challenging assumptions, querying the ‘best approaches’ and pushing the team at Business in the Community to ensure the support offered is relevant, meaningful, and impactful. And rightly so.

The opportunity? To work more closely with these driven organisations, to maximise the positive impact we can make through businesses’ desire to make the world a better place to work and live, and to work more closely together towards achieving our vision of a world where responsible business is at the core of every organisation.

It is in this context that we have created our new three-year Strategy for 2022-2025. Our approach has been informed by our Board, our members, and our community partners. While you will see some familiar themes in there, such as Education and Skills, Environment, and Inclusion, you will also notice an overt commitment to holding ourselves to account and being challenged by others, both in terms of our targets, and also our approach.

For instance, we want to ensure we are collaborating with others to achieve the biggest possible impacts across our Strategy themes. Whether that be working with community partners, or convening business to maximise pace and positive influence, this Strategy recognises that collaboration holds the key to us best tackling the challenges faced by business and society.

We have included the voice of young people as an explicit part of the new Strategy. They’re our future and it’s important we hear their thoughts and ideas as to how business can best address issues like the climate emergency, or how to create inclusive workplaces. Our Leadership Teams, comprised of representatives from our member organisations, will hold us to account on our progress against our strategy, as well as advising us if we need to change direction at any stage. We want to be challenged.

We’re delighted responsible business is increasingly recognised as ‘just good business’. While Joel Makower may warn us that we should be careful what we wish for, we’re ready for the challenge and look forward to working closely with our members to further raise the bar for responsible business. Will you join us?

Click here to download the Business in the Community Strategy for 2022- 2025.